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Chanute Air Force Base (1917-1993) is a former United States Air Force base located south of and adjacent to Rantoul, Illinoismarker, about south of Chicagomarker. Its primary mission throughout its existence was Air Force technical training.

The base was closed as a result of BRAC in 1993.

Current status

Many of the Air Force base's buildings and facilities have found new life, with purposes that range from motels, retirement communities, restaurants, a fitness center, an aerospace museum, a prominent data center and several light manufacturing facilities. The golf course, once only available to service members and their guests, is now one of the most popular in east-central Illinois. The housing on base, once homes for airmen with families, are now occupied by civilians. Even so, many buildings remain unoccupied, and they are slowly falling apart due to lack of maintenance.

Parts of Chanute AFB has been converted into civilian use, including the Octave Chanute Aerospace Museum, an airport (Rantoul National Aviation Centermarker) and a 6-month military boot camp academy for youths ages 16-18. This program is called Lincoln's Challenge Academy.


Chanute AFB was named in honor of Octave Chanute (1832-1910), a pioneer aeronautical engineer and experimenter, and friend and adviser to the Wright Brothers. Chanute's biplane glider (1896) with "two arched wings held rigidly together by vertical struts and diagonal wire bracing" (the principle of the Pratt truss used in the railroad bridges which Chanute constructed) served as a prototype design for airplanes.

===Major Commands toProxy-Connection: keep-aliveCache-Control: max-age=0

hich assigned===
Redesignated: Director of Air Service
Redesignated: U.S. Army Air Service, 24 May 1918
Redesignated: U.S. Army Air Corps, 2 Jul 1926
  • General Headquarters (GHQ) Air Force, 1 March 1935
  • Army Air Corps Technical Training Comd, 26 Mar 1941
Redesignated: AAF Flying Training Comd, 7 Jul 1943
Redesignated: AAF Training Command, 31 Jul 1943

Base operating units

  • 10th Aero Sq, 7 Jul 1917 - 18 Apr 1921
  • Army Air Corps Technical School, 18 Apr 1921 - 1 Aug 1933
  • 98th School Sq, 1 Aug 1933 - 1 Sep 1936
  • 10th Air Base Sq (Special), 1 Sep 1936 - 17 Feb 1941
  • 9th Air Base Sq (Special), 17 Feb 1941 - 1 May 1944
  • 3502d AAF Base Unit (Technical School), 1 May 1944 - 26 Aug 1948
  • 3345th Air Base Gp, 26 Aug 1948 - 1993
  • 3496th Air Training Command Headquarters 1950 - 1958
  • Naval Technical Training Unit Chanute UNK - 01 Dec 1992


Chanute Air Force Base Hangar Number 1.
In May 1917, Rantoul was chosen to be the site of Rantoul Aviation Field, however on 6 June 1917 the name was changed to Chanute Field. Rantoul was selected due to its proximity to the Illinois Central Railroad and the War Department’s ground school housed at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaignmarker. During World War I, Chanute was a pilot training school for the Army Air Service. With the end of the war, the facility was closed in January 1919 and used as a storage depot for surplus war material.

In February 1921 Chanute Field was reopened as a technical training center for the Air Service with various types of training being transferred from Kelly Fieldmarker, Texasmarker, to Chanute. Nine steel hangars were constructed to serve as classrooms by 1924. However, diminishing funds to the Air Service resulted in a sharp decline in the number of students and the use of the airfield during the Great Depression of the early 1930s.

World War II and ties to Tuskegee Airmen

Chanute Air Force Base Headquarters and Administrative Building.
United States Army Air Service Technical Training Command was established at Chanute in 1941, and during World War II, thousands of airmen were stationed there to train new recruits who cycled in and out.

On March 19, 1941, the 99th Pursuit Squadron ("Pursuit" being an early World War II synonym for "Fighter") was activated at Chanute Field in Rantoul, Illinois. Over 250 enlisted men were trained at Chanute in aircraft ground support trades. This small number of enlisted men was to become the core of other black squadrons forming at Tuskegee and Maxwell Fields in Alabama — the famed Tuskegee Airmen.


After World War II, with the formation of the Air Force, Chanute Field was renamed Chanute Air Force Base. It served as a major training facility for Air Force aircraft maintenance officers; Air Force and Navy meteorology; and enlisted technical training for Air Force aircraft maintenance, flight simulator maintenance, fuel system maintenance and missile system maintenance. An Air Force Technical Training Instructors Course was conducted as well. Additionally, Chanute AFB was the site for training firefighters, life support specialists (ejection seat, aircrew survival equipment, parachute riggers, etc.), welders, non-destructive inspection (of materials) and airframe repair.


The base was recommended for closure in 1988 and officially closed in 1993. Despite short-term blows to the local economy in the years leading up to and immediately after closing, in many ways, the transition of Chanute Air Force Base from military to civilian use has been successful. There are several condemned areas that are environmental safety issues including an area in the southeast corner of the base, Heritage Lake, which was a dumping ground, and numerous buildings containing asbestos.


See also


  • Botner, John K.,, pictures of the base as it stand now.
  • Ravenstein, Charles A., Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories 1947-1977, Office of Air Force History, 1984
  • Mueller, Robert, Air Force Bases Volume I, Active Air Force Bases Within the United States of America on 17 September 1982, Office of Air Force History, 1989
  • Endicott, Judy G., USAF Active Flying, Space, and Missile Squadrons as of 1 October 1995. Office of Air Force History

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